About David M. Samson

David M. Samson

David M. Samson was born in Wallasey (near Liverpool) in 1957. After graduating from Bath University with a degree in "Mathematics with Computing" he worked as a computer consultant in Bristol, Saudi Arabia, Manchester, New York, Hannover and Hamburg.

He now lives in Hamburg, Germany, with his beautiful wife and two daughters.

He has had various articles published. Here Dave presents his six books. Silent Violence was published in January 2008 and the first two parts of his urban literature kitchen sink trilogy Nails came out in July 2008 and Bottle in March 2009. Deutschisch appeared at the end of 2011 bringing Oberkommissar Dannaks to the World and a collection of short stories  ...and the man who loved cats in August 2012. At the beginning of 2014 the prequel to Deutschisch Ausländer appeared.

These books are only available online through Lulu, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. (At Lulu there are also cheap download versions of the books.) You can use the buttons or links on this website.

Dave is an enthusiastic sports person. When he is not creating or attending a gym class he is a computer consultant.

Silent Violence

ISBN 978-0-95567-960-5

Book cover: Silent Violence

by Dawn Marie with D.M. Samson

In 1984 Dawn Marie travelled with her husband to Saudi Arabia. He had secured a job replacing the outgoing foreman of a secluded farm near Riyadh. Almost two years later she would return. Alone. Broken.

In Silent Violence she tells us of her journey: a long downward spiral. From the first inklings of things not being right, a pet killer in the expatriate compound, clandestine excursions by the farm crew, through to the rising hysteria within the expatriate community, then the killings at the farm, the ensuing imprisonment, moral deterioration, government procrastination and eventual deliverance.

Without question her story is harrowing. Yet it contains a great deal of humour too. For humour was the life jacket that kept a displaced person buoyant in a strange culture.

After years of psychiatric treatment she was persuaded to write her story. The road to publication is a story in itself. Ultimately the book was suppressed in the interests of international relations.

Silent Violence should be a warning to prospective expatriates. Its portrayal of Arab mentality could help policy makers too.

The book has been co-written by David M Samson.

Critique

What people have said:

"This is a book that runs like a surreal film. It's a real eye-opener to the Saudi Aramco expat world. The sheer detail of the story tells me that it's true. Buy it." (John G., Manchester)

"This is a must for everyone interested in the Arab people. The ignorance and arrogance of the West is especially well portrayed." (Brian M., London)

"What happened to Dawn Marie out there is a tragedy. I really felt for her." (Karen Q., Bristol)

"This is undoubtedly a true story that had to come out. Too bad the traditional publishers didn't snap it up. But as Dawn says, they too came under pressure. I'm glad D.M. Samson helped her. I'm glad she had the courage to publish it herself. Her story had to be told." (Deborah W., Kent, Surrey)

"Dawn's story has everything (she was even forced to witness an execution), but most of all it has heart. The collaboration with D.M.Samson is a triumph." (Ian D., York, Yorkshire)

Sample Chapter

Silent Violence

Follow the advice of any book on novel writing and you will be torturing yourself looking for that attention-grabbing opening sentence. Go for the jugular, they shout. Furthermore, you will be told to start your story at a turning point or a moment of conflict. Hurl a shower of question marks like hooks into the mind of the reader.

My initial reaction to this advice, when beginning my story some twenty odd years ago, was to shout back: this is my life not a novel. Since completing the first, second, fifth draft, and in so doing discovering the turning points and moments of conflict, I have been persuaded to reach a wider audience. However, rather than scouring my story for a suitable beginning I found I had too many. So I decided upon two: a turning point and a moment of conflict. The first turning point

has to be my arrival in Saudi Arabia. The moment of conflict I have chosen is the immediate aftermath of the disaster. What about the elusive opening line? Here too I had the problem of too many candidates. So I will let you choose.

These opening sentences come from when I was re-reading the only English magazine in prison. The old Indian gave it to me. It was a women's magazine, a brittle five years old and still curling. There was a competition in it, with one of those why-I-chose-this- product-in-fifteen-words-or-less tiebreakers. At the time I made up my own competition.

Order the following sentences according to their appropriateness at describing my story. Good luck.

A. Saudi Arabia destroyed my life.

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B. The country killed my husband.

C. The greed of others stole his life.

And when I think about it I could add the more nebulous:

D. A clash of cultures caused his death.

Of course you can't order the sentences. You haven't taken my journey. Anyway, all of these statements are true and the order is subjective and therefore irrelevant.

Still, the tone is set. And yet before the tragedy there was levity, perhaps gaiety. There was at least a semblance of normality, under the circumstances. There were no real warnings. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight I can see the clues. But at the time they were buried under one of the very things that helped us through daily life in

Saudi. If it's not at the top of the list of qualities required by expats then it certainly occupies second or third place. I'm talking about humour. Humour was the habitual opium. In the face of adversity laughter was a balsam. A laugh a day keeps the blues at bay. This, taken with the tedium of the farm and the fact of my isolation, gave any clues the deep-six.

I can see I'm digressing.

I must start with my arrival: an arrival that on the face of it was quite mundane. And yet it was at once ordinary and extraordinary like only a birth can be.

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Dhahran, 1405

Learning to breathe. That was how it felt at the door. My face was at an open oven and I was gagging in front my famous fig cake at gas Mark 5. I was so surprised I hesitated. The cabin-controlled air had lulled me. The airhostess with the wraparound teeth said "thank you for flying British Airways". All the hostesses could have exchanged the aisle for a catwalk. I wondered what presents and marriage proposals they had been offered. Was the route revered or reviled? I don't know. I smiled and stepped out into the heavy heat.

They never returned my journal but from a letter to my parents I see that it was 23°C. This was surprising because it was twenty to ten at night. I knew this meant serious heat, not the fun-loving Mediterranean sort. And I always thought it became rock-cracking cold at night.

An old diary notes that on this very day British Summertime ended. Here endless sunshine was forecast, but unfortunately not endless summertime.

The journey had taken its toll. My husband and I had been up at six for my parents to take us to Heathrow. Friends were there to see us off too. "Printing money in the sun," was what they said. Mike had given up telling them that it was hard work. Our weariness was shared. Being purged from the bright, cosy conviviality of banter and booze precipitated a silent vulnerability. An unspoken consensus was made and we quietly fell into line, wary and weary; raw recruits after a long haul, straggled into combat interval by the weight of hand luggage and eyelids.

As we walked across the tarmac towards the building stadium floodlights put our star-fished shadows on stilts. The quartz

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sparkled with the muted iridescence of lamplight upon snow at night. I remember thinking of asking Mike whether it was quartz I was seeing or diamonds.

A soldier with a machine gun slung over his shoulder indolently followed our progress.

When we got to baggage collection and I saw we were not going to get through customs within the hour my heart sank.

* * *

Unlike other airports where potluck or bad-luck depicted whether you were selected by the customs officers, here nothing was left to chance.

After retrieving our baggage and loading the trolley we joined the line of jaded

travellers. Another plane must have arrived for there was already a long queue of Asians to our right.

Arab nationals were whisked through a third line.

In the queue well ahead of us was a drunkard. Drink had been flowing and free on the flight and many had drunk as if there was no tomorrow. He was not loud and reeling, but I could see that his disgruntled mutterings were affecting neighbouring people. Those in his vicinity wished for hats, high collars. They fussed with their bags, became absorbed by a wall or verged on slinking away. When his turn came and he heaved his cases upon the counter and opened them I expected a scene. I don't know whether respect or fear came into play, but like everyone else he knuckled down and was meek. Yet, his mutterings

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and overall dissatisfaction remained with me. They spoke of an antipathy that I would see again and again as an undertow of cynicism, an invisible force: the gravity of which required jet-propulsion humour to escape.

Then there was only a young man in front of us. He opened his case on the counter and turned it to the official. The official pulled out a white plastic bottle and stood it next to the case. "Contact lens fluid," he said brightly as the official unscrewed the top and sniffed. He put the bottle back on the counter in such a way that it was obvious it would not be packed. He went back to rummaging. The youth looked at us and I raised my eyebrows sympathetically.

Mike had told me not to bring any perfumes for they could contain alcohol. Medicine and make-up could be regarded as drugs. Videos would be confiscated for

viewing. All Marks and Spencers labels had to be cut off and anything else pertaining to Jewish companies or Israel itself had to be erased or better still left behind. Pendants with crucifixes or any adornment that could be construed as an object of worship were not tolerated. For just as there are no natural rivers in Saudi Arabia so too there are no churches or places of devotion other than mosques. Yet, non-believers are not tolerated. "I'm sorry," the agency representative had said. "They won't accept your form.

You've got to believe in God. Let's put Protestant, shall we?"

The official spoke loudly into the boy's last case. He turned it for the boy to close. The bottle of contact lens fluid was the only thing he had put aside. A guard or soldier the official had apparently summoned

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appeared and took the bottle. The youth was about to protest but shook his head instead.

When Mike and I reached the counter I was shocked to see the official standing on a carnage of printed material, all flesh and eyes. I realised that some of the eyes were not eyes but nipples. Booby Babs and sexy Sadi shone heroically through the trodden mosaic. All manner of offensive pictures had been ripped from magazines, newspapers and books. Revelations as mild as a soaring slip of leg or a plunging décolletage were considered improper. A girl in lingerie was scandalous and there were few contemporary magazines without one.

The official went through everything, right down to impassively rifling through my smalls. My supply of paperbacks was scrutinised - perhaps he expected to find an imbedded phial of sherry. When he came to

the Koran I looked to him for some emotion, but it was not forthcoming. Finishing one case he slid it to one side and gestured us to open the next. To close the inspected one, we had to rearrange the contents. Nothing was said, but there was no surliness either. There was nothing. Only the cases existed. We were not present. We merely transported the cases. Even he did not exist. He was expressionless, dead-panning the monotonous stream for articles of abuse.

There was no narcotising supermarket music, but there should have been. It would have lifted the grim silence jarred by intermittent sounds of tearing paper.

There was a significant, if unsurprising, absence of women. In the Asian queue I counted five waifs with downcast eyes. Their timidity was such that had they been told that breathing was not permitted they would

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have turned blue and died on the spot. On our flight there had been only one other woman. She was also a westerner and had been noticeable in the waiting lounge at Heathrow because she was travelling alone. Yet, despite the presence of so many men she did not seem intimidated. I got my fair share of sideways glances, but she was constantly being devoured. Throughout the flight I did not see her. Then, just after the pilot announced that we were nearing Dhahran airport, she marched down the aisle. When she re-emerged from the toilets at the back of the plane I almost did not recognise her. Gone were her tight blue denims and colourful blouse. She was enveloped in a sheer black cloak, an abaaya. Her head was uncovered, but she had put her hair up - no doubt in anticipation of concealment. The woman in London with the air of independence had prepared herself for anonymity.

An hour and three quarters after touch-down we'd got our luggage chalk-marked by one official, had them verified by another at the exit, and were through to the other side to be confronted by a lively regatta of bold lettering on cards and boards and placards. Some were flagships sporting the company motif; others plain white modest yachts and still others on ribbed cardboard like junks. Amongst the disorientating mass Mike spotted our surname.

The man holding the card introduced himself as Pat. He was Irish.

"You're probably knackered," he said.

"We left Heathrow at noon," said Mike, "but to get there we were up at six."

"I'm sorry, but we have to see the chief

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rag-head first." That was the first time I heard an Arab referred to that way. At the time I found it offensive.

He led us down a corridor bustling with people despite the late hour. A devastated Indian dressed in white was pushing a trolley of bin-liners, buckets and cleaning implements. Every so often he would spot a speck of dirt or even as much as a cigarette stub and laboriously gather it up. The place looked spotless, but he could not be idle and was programmed to perpetually sweep and wipe.

Dhahran airport was the first building I saw in Saudi Arabia and was of the modern Arab architectural school. Without resorting to gaudy ceramics, horseshoe arches or onion domes, which could have been a mockery in such a contemporary structure, the architect had endeavoured to lend an

Arabic flavour. Outside there was a liberal helping of pointed arches, but inside the ceiling resembled the groined vault that one sometimes finds in a castle or below a church. The building was low-level and like most buildings in the country, respecting the intense heat, the windows were absent, deep-set or sheltered.

* * *

Pat knocked upon a partially opened door, peered inside, gestured for us to wait and went in. A moment later he ushered us in, pointing to the orange plastic chairs that lined one wall. "Give me your passports," he said and handed them to the man behind the desk. Mike couldn't bring the trolley with our luggage in and parked it near the door. "Nobody'll take anything," Pat said quietly. "Crime is virtually non-existent here. But I've got to wait outside anyway."

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There were two men in the room. One sat behind a large teak desk in a padded leather chair. Another sat in the corner on a chair like ours. He was tall and thin in a charcoal-grey uniform and carried a holstered pistol. I could not tell whether he was a police officer, ranking customs official or airport security man. By the way he was slouched in the chair I could tell he was not cultured. His eyes were coal but his thinness and grey suit reminded me of a pencil: hard and thin: H3. He was inspecting his nails, occasionally stealing smouldering glances in my direction. For fear of catching his eye I looked elsewhere. The man behind the desk was conversely stockier and dressed in Arab attire. Although dark, almost sinister, he was a more passionate man, cultured, incongruously soft, of eyeliner consistency: 4B. He was the first real Arab I had seen. On the plane most of the dark-skinned men had

been in crisp business suits. Even then a European jacket spoilt 4B's Dickensian nightshirt known as a thobe. The contrasting outdoor heat and the aggressive refrigerator setting of the building's a/c made the jacket necessary. "It can't be healthy," I had remarked and Mike had said that I'd get used to it. The tails of the Arab's white headdress had been flipped on top of his head. His dead-eyed gaze could have knocked the pips off that of the best London commuter.

4B's watch on a gold link bracelet was loose, more a bauble than a timepiece, and it tapped the desk as he examined our passports. He looked at the important pages, he looked at us, he looked at some papers and then he returned to the passports, turning every single page. It seemed that the only qualification for his job was a doctorate in meticulousness.

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The uniformed Arab mumbled something and the man at the desk let slip a half smile. I grew angry. He'd been scrutinising our passports for a full ten minutes, a long time when you're exhausted. And I didn't like the sideways looks H3 was giving me. I believed that H3 had made a snide remark. I looked to Mike and his expression said patience.

I surveyed his spartan office. There was the obligatory picture of King Fahd, a map of Saudi, the Saudi flag and a calendar. Sunday 28th October 1984 was 4 Safar 1405. The Arab New Year was into its third month.

I was tempted to reflect upon the state of Europe in 1405, the end of the middle Ages. We too lopped off hands for theft. We also branded and flogged and although we didn't behead we hung without the drop technique, effectively strangling the wretch. Naturally,

such comparison was cheap. It was arrogant to believe that we'd risen above this level of barbarity. For one would have to dismiss that bastion of the Western World, USA, with its electric chairs, gas chambers and lethal injections. Many in the Arab world condemned Britain's long terms of imprisonment. They claimed confinement was unjust. Whilst one soul suffered, another thrived and even expanded upon his criminal knowledge and connections. Arab punishments doubtlessly embraced the deterrent factor more closely. Only those who had experienced prison could say what it was like, whereas the lasting effects of having your hand cut off were relatively easy to imagine. Unless you were victim of an unfortunate accident, you were also branded for life. I didn't know whether the Arab way was an effective deterrent, but I did believe that a high proportion of the British populace would welcome the return of capital punishment for a child murderer, for instance.

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He closed our passports and placed them one on top of the other. Still he said nothing. Then he looked up and feigned surprise when he saw we were still there. Whereas H3 was shallow and could be physically cruel, 4B was deep and psychologically damaging. "You may go." And with a limp-wristed wave of the hand one might use to flick dust off one's shoulder, his gold bracelet rattling, he repeated: "Go."

I got up and being nearest to the end of the desk where our passports lay, I made to retrieve them. Casually he placed his hand on them and I paused, my hand in mid-air. He did not look up.

Such was his confidence.

"He keeps them," said Pat from the door. "They'll get sent on to the company's Riyadh office."

There was something profoundly disconcerting about giving up my passport. For the majority of the time it sat in a bureau or locked drawer. When I had it in my possession I guarded it like an appendage.

Our belongings had been scrutinised, a part of our personalities laid bare and it seemed now our identities were being confiscated. We had queued and been processed. Had George Orwell ever visited this country? Ha, even public intimacy was banned. It was truly 1984.

Outside had turned surprisingly cold. Then again it was almost one o'clock. I was glad that I had not anticipated heat and kept the sweatshirt I had donned inside.

When we were out of earshot making our way to Pat's car I voiced my anger. "Things would have gone quicker if we'd slipped

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him a few riyals." I never got to speak about giving up our passports. A week or so later we would receive our iqamas: identity cards.

"I doubt it," returned Pat. "It's always like that. Things get done, but at their pace."

"Inshallah," added Mike.

"Exactly," smiled Pat. "You sound genned up."

"I worked out here a few years ago."

I knew Mike had been dying to announce it. He wanted to know what had changed. So for most of the journey I sat quietly in the back of the car. As far as I could gather from their banter, not much had changed. I was too weary to keep up and my naïvety at the time made me an outsider to their rapid conversation. To his credit Mike tried to

involve me by occasionally explaining what they were referring to when they dropped euphemisms and abbreviations. I appreciated his effort and had I had the opportunity I would have told him not to bother. I was too tired to listen.

There was not much traffic and the roads looked pristine, bathed as they were in a lamplight that hazed the surroundings. The hush was conspicuous and isolated us in the vehicle. Although the motorways were modern - there appeared to be no roads only American-style freeways - they were bewildering in layout. Four, six, eight lanes it did not matter, a small track would join at ninety degrees. And then the motorways themselves would merge from the left or the right and sometimes both at the same time. We did not traverse a spaghetti junction, but we did a couple of suspicious turns. By the time we reached our destination I was utterly disorientated.

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* * *

I throw the mesh door aside. It judders and the buzzard perched upon the roof of the opposite demountable looks over. The bird is so startled it just stares. Does it see the pieces of an ill-fitting puzzle that was once my face? It takes flight with slow confident flaps of its wings. But I do not see its majesty. My surroundings have been reduced to a backdrop of tissue-paper consistency. Such is the enormity of what has happened. And yet although I am numb and cannot focus I absorb everything. The farm is as still as if the lads are out working. The presence of the buzzard has banished all other birds.

I should run, but I just stand at the top of the wooden steps. They creak with my indecision.

There is a small pain, sharp like a hypodermic puncturing my heart. Thirst has egg-shelled my lips and I am about to lick them, when a noise on the threshold of my imagination pinches me for attention. I deny the sound and my attention is about to implode when I hear it again: a groan and then a rasp of sand. I focus on Abdul's cruiser standing in front of me before his demountable. There is no sound for a long time. But I'm focused on it, frozen by it, waiting for its confirmation. When the groan comes I know I have to act, but I'm petrified. Curiosity tussles with dread but eventually I move forward.

My approach is weird. I walk over to the cruiser, but I do not move purposefully. I feel the young sun perforating my skin with tiny scalding needles. A streak of cats has dabbed the sky in a stampede of off-white paw prints. I am strolling over, almost

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looking nonchalantly this way and that for distraction or observation; almost abstractedly kicking the dirt. Weird.

I move around to the right, the front of the vehicle, allowing myself ample distance.

At first I don't recognise the battered face in the shadow of the cruiser. Whoever it is presents no threat. I step closer but stop when eyes snap open and stare at me.

My heart aches with angina.

Exhausted though I am, my emotional time is not over. I am still going through a myriad of emotions at lightning speed. Occasionally, I can reach up into the gale and hold a thought before it is torn away. One such thought is clear like a splash of ice water in the face: I should kick him. Not for who he is, but what he represents.

His lips part and he speaks. Then I'm standing over him and the word he is repeating is water. His eyes plead with me. One side of his blood-red face is pebble-dashed with grit.

After a while I realise that he's fallen silent. Still he looks into my eyes. I give him nothing. I am not there. Caked lips mouth something, but I do not bend to listen. Has he resumed his litany? Is he gasping for water? Can't he see that he cannot get sense from me, let alone water? I do not bend to listen.

Some distant urgency is mounting. I don't know why at first. Then I hear them: the wailing of hysterical ghouls. And they are getting louder. Stillness carries sound.

No, he isn't asking for water. He is speaking English, using a word I recognise,

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but one to which I can attach no meaning. The wailing of the banshees is obvious, but I hesitate, as if the word is the most important thing in the world. This new word is not like his plea for water; this word is not for him, it is for me. When I flee I don't remember the word. Much later, under interrogation, when they are trying to establish my part in the killings, does the word come.

Now I run.

I see the multiple blitzes of distant vehicles trying to strobe the daylight. Banshees becoming sirens.

I run round the kitchen building and race across the courtyard into the old greenhouse. And I wait, hidden, cowering. Not thinking about Abdul's word. The word that was his attempt to reach me, his attempt to span the void between us. The word he knew I knew.

The one he thought could explain the inexplicable.

* * *

Despite the late hour at which we had hit the sack, we were showered and dressed when Pat called for us at seven-thirty.

"It's my house-sit," he had explained as we neared the whitewashed house the previous night. Mike had been to the Aramco (Arabian American Company) camp before and had already explained the concept of housesits to me. When the occupants of one of the more luxurious houses left a pet to go on holiday, there were queues of volunteers ready to look-after the place.

Outside I could see the house more clearly. It was a concrete block, identical to

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the one next to it and the one next to that; a small community of about a dozen buildings surrounding a car park, not unlike a housing estate.

The furnishings within made up for the lack of architectural style: on-suite bathroom with massage shower, walk-in cupboards and a well-stocked refrigerator also walk-in size. Modern appliances were in abundance: ice maker, coffee and espresso machines, video machine, cinematic television, food processor. Everything one could want. The sense of home was apparent, yet I could not appreciate its warmth. There was a dislocation founded in the feeling that the building could not yield to the occupants' efforts. Like a film set or a show-house there was a stylised almost unlived-in aura. Individuality had merely been tacked upon the frosty walls. Remote-island rugs dappled the sea of nondescript carpeting.

Solitary artefacts and ornaments from travels afar seemed displaced.

The deserted clean-swept roads enhanced the sterilised toy-town feel.

The stillness was conspicuous. "Does anyone live here?" I asked as we clambered into his car.

"Everyone's at work."

We were on the Aramco compound known as main-camp, Pat informed us. The very reference to a camp added a temporal feel to the place as if civilisation was bivouacking on the harsh land. There were other camps, notably North camp, an ex-army array of demountables where the majority of the foreign male workforce was housed. This was where Pat lived.

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"Women are not allowed there," he lamented.

"Too bad," I joked.

Mike gave me a scolding look and smiled.

The light from the new sun was zinc: a bluish-white metallic brilliance. The blinding exposure was not complemented by intense heat. The warmth was young and pleasant, late evening rather than early morning. But in still moments the threat of blast-furnace heat vaporised the pleasantness.

Nature's elemental heat and light cauterised the striving civilisation: paling colours and flattening shapes. Unquenchable strips of grass and hardy trees were already being sprinkled. Their colour was dust and parched green.

There was ample parking and we stopped outside the main refectory.

Inside the place was as unobtrusive and practical and as unimpressive as a burger-house. It was large and it too was deserted. The smell of ketchup and chewing gum adhered to the furnishings. I suspected the place was built in the sixties but modelled on the rock'n'roll fifties and revamped in the seventies. Efforts had been made to broadband the clientele, but eventually calibrated to attract the fifteen year olds. The paper place mats, a flowered border with the motif "Live one day at a time and make it a masterpiece" rejected jocular youth and sent the barometer up to the sixty-year olds.

Again, the cold was fierce, but the contrast was not as defined as yesterday evening and I was not chilled to the bone. Nonetheless I folded my arms against it.

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The head of the company that employed Mike met us. Firm handshakes were made and then Pat bid us adieu. He hastily arranged a meeting with Mike for the transference of our luggage.

Smith was smartly dressed in a white shirt, sober tie and pressed trousers. He was not fat, but his reddish face was mildly bloated. He appeared to be a stereotypical businessman unsuited to the Middle East. He had a mildly worried face hinting at blood vessel bursting restraint: the perfect cardiac candidate. In an effort to appear casual his shirt was short-sleeved.

He led us to a table were a woman was drinking a cup of coffee.

"My wife June," Smith announced.

"Hallo," she greeted. We exchanged

glances and I thought hers dismissive. "I need a kick-start in the morning," she said, referring to her coffee. Had I misread the contact?

We seated ourselves and a waiter brought us the large glossy menus. Mike and I ordered hearty breakfasts.

"I thought you two could go shopping," explained Smith.

So that was why this woman with the fragrant bouffant hairdo was here. I was not to see the hydroponics greenhouses with Mike. This was our reason for flying to Dhahran and not to Riyadh; a mere fifty kilometres drive from our farm.

June looked as if she was about to present a range of cosmetics rather embark on a shopping expedition. On camp one was

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relatively free to dress as one wished. Her attire was more suited to a ball or some other social event. Admittedly she was in a wine dress-suit rather than an evening dress, but she was undoubtedly a prestige shopper. She was no Christmas tree but her jewellery was out of sync with the mundanity of shopping. Gold was predominant, but matching her outfit were rubies.

Mike knew my disappointment, but I knew there was no protesting. One did not challenge the husband's boss on the first meeting.

I looked at June and forced a smile.

"The maid always forgets something," she said haughtily and I shrank from her.

Was I to be a mere helper? Drastic action was necessary to make or break the morning. "Sherpa Dawn at your service."

Mike chuckled, Smith gave a half-smile and June blanched. My enthusiasm was vulgar. The morning was ruined.

"I'd love to see what you can buy out here," I went on. "I'll probably be doing some cooking on the farm."

"There's not much else," June said with a vicious smile.

An earring flashed. I'd mistaken the stones for rubies. They weren't stones at all, but clots of enemy's blood, trophies among the charms.

"It's only for six months," I said, but her smile remained. As if she knew something that I didn't.

Mike registered the skirmish and galloped into no-man's land before we became fully

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entrenched. "Dawn's brought enough reading material to open a small library."

"Here there's a little more to do than on the farm," Smith confessed, unaware of the scuffle. "I thought you could set off late afternoon when it's cooler."

Mike nodded.

Small talk followed. It was so small that silence would have been less of an embarrassment had it not been our first meeting. We scoured the corners for something to magnify. Smith was socially inept and his wife was content to ignore us. Thankfully our breakfasts arrived and gave us reason for silence.

As we finished eating we foundered on more small talk before the cavalry in the guise of a third party arrived.

He was a tall thin man in a chequered shirt and slacks. An ill-matching tie betrayed him. Either he had no dress sense or his attire displayed admirable rebellion in the face of his superior. Whatever, because he did not fit in with these people I awarded him ten sympathy points.

Smith introduced him as Ted. He was the overseer of the hydroponics centre.

"Ted the head," Smith joked. He also shot up in my estimation. Evidently despite his dress sense Smith admired Ted. Ted was the man who brought results. And I could see him in overalls and wellies grubbing about in the soil.

The remark caused Ted to redden and his uneasiness won him further points.

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"Coffee?" Smith offered.

"No thanks, I've, er, actually had breakfast."

"Don't be fooled by Ted's modesty, Mike. This man is a tower of knowledge. He could argue a case better than a lawyer. And he carries his books around in his head." Perhaps Smith had also been disconcerted by the small talk. Although I felt the comment was more for his wife's benefit, as if to say: "Excuse him, he's a genius in disguise."

Ted coughed and shuffled in his chair. He gave me an awkward smile.

I was giving away points like confetti when Smith announced that it was time to go. My thoughts scattered like threatened insects. Condemned to the best part of a day with June, subservience or a sham-fraternity

seemed the only options open to me. She not only had better established fortifications she had the high ground too. I was completely disadvantaged. At the first opportunity I hastily whispered to Mike: "I don't know how I'm going to get through the day with her."

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Nails

ISBN 978-0-95567-961-2

Preview: Nails

by D.M. Samson

There is little one can say about the plot. Succinctly put, it is the story of one day in the life of a car mechanic. Not much in itself, but then it's hard, raw, violent, sexy, uncompromising, sensitive, funny and philosophical. It's a page-turner that grabs you by the curlies.

Critique

What people have said:

"Any book whose opening three words are shit, shave, shower is destined for cult status or the bin. My copy is on a shelf." (Roger H., Bath)

Sample Chapter

Nails

Shit, shave, shower. That was how the day started for him. Nothing out of the ordinary in that respect. But today was a Saturday and the dry, reptilian claw of a hangover gripped his brain. It squeezed internally, like something contained in a moist cloth and subject to intense heat. His very eyes protested. They seemed too big for their sockets, swollen with fluid and contrasting his parched brain. Then there was his mouth, also parched, but tasting foul, as if he had been sucking on the exhaust-pipe of a car all night.

As he sat on the bog, wanting the tranquillity and sanctuary of unconsciousness, he inspected the bruise at his side. It was purple and pained.

He smiled to himself as he remembered his kick to the fucker's gut.

And with this memory other pieces of the previous evening rose up to scorch his knackered mind. Oh, how he wished for an unthinking state.

"The barrel's on tonight," said Steve.

"Aye, there's yer fuckin' dinner," said Tony, raising his pint.

They all laughed.

"You look at my woman again I'll put you in an oxygen tent!" threatened the stranger.

"Yeah, you and whose fuckin' army?" he had returned.

"Leave it out," said the stranger's girlfriend. But the stranger knew she fancied Kevin and her words pushed him over the edge.

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Kevin viewed himself in the bathroom mirror.

"What a bleedin' mess," he remarked, without the smile he had hoped for.

Perhaps he'd phone and call it off. No. He wanted to see her.

Methodically he took out his shaving implements. Every sound was as distinct as his movements were purposeful. The flush of the cistern seemed to crash forever. The rush of water in the sink seemed louder.

As he shook the can of foam with some reserve of energy he moved his head from side to side, viewing himself all the while and eventually a sardonic smile stretched his mouth-line.

"You and whose fuckin' army?" he said aloud. And he shook the can vigorously and shunned the hatchet buried deep in his head.

"Oh Kevin, Kevin, only you. Only you," she had gasped as he moved over her. Push. Push. Push.

What a love-bite she had given him! He smiled again. The lads at the garage had given him some friendly gyp over that.

Kevin checked his neck. Not a sign.

Then to counter his smile his side flared.

"Leave it out," said the stranger's girlfriend. But the stranger knew she fancied Kevin and it was enough to push him over the edge.

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He shoved Kevin, who, after falling into people, spilling their drinks, had crashed into a table.

"Aye," shouted Terry.

Kevin pulled himself up. His face burnt with rage. But he knew the stranger would be ready. So he had gone real close. Stood in front of him. Using his eyes to burn holes in the bastard's face. But making no move. Fooling the fucker into thinking he was scared.

Then as Terry pushed his way through the crowded pub, Kevin had grabbed the bloke's wrists with a vice-like grip, and like

a sledge-hammer he had nutted him. It was his favourite move. And with him dazed he had yanked him to him and brought his knee up into the bastard's crotch. The guy was almost on the floor

when Kevin kicked him in the guts. Magic.

It all happened very fast.

Terry shouted at Kevin and got Steve and Tony to take him out.

But Terry gave the guy on the floor the greater bollocking. He was not a regular like Kevin. He was banned from the pub.

This was the second time Terry had balled Kevin out and no doubt tonight he would receive a lecture from him. Perhaps this time he would ask him to stay away for a couple of weeks. Now that would really piss him off.

After his shave he climbed into the shower and let the hot water cleanse his body. For a long while he let it run over his head. He kept his eyes open, blinking away the rivulets when they came. He hung his head in some kind of James Dean

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detachment. His brain was still screaming, but the patter of water on his head had a soothing distraction. Eventually the hatchet won through and he began to wash.

He dug his fingertips into the soap, hoping to scratch some of it under his bitten nails, to reach the black grease and oil that was always there.

During his soaping he came across his bruise. He ventured a depression, a little harder. Yes, he could feel it. A little harder. Yes, it hurt. It was sore.

Then suddenly, tensing his stomach muscles he made a fist and punched himself hard.

Strength, he thought to himself.

The bruise at his side began to ache.

He sang loudly, deeply. And for a moment he was Jim Morrison of The Doors.

Starkers, he left the bathroom and moved through the living room towards the kitchen.

Kevin cursed under his breath when he noticed that he'd left the stereo on all night. The ashtrays were full, sitting on the floor. Crushed cans of lager and plates covered with the specks of toast crumbs lay strewn about.

"Tip, tip, tip," he said to himself.

In the kitchen, melted yellow cheese hung in the mesh of the grill pan. Toast crumbs, coffee rings and stained teaspoons littered the work surfaces.

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Kevin lifted the kettle, guessed its contents and flicked the switch. As he gathered things together, looking out on the bright day through the small kitchen window, the electric kettle hissed and then rattled and bumped. He knew that that was what came of reboiling the same water, but he did not know why.

He returned to the lounge and put a record by Echo and the Bunnymen on the turntable. Then, beginning to feel the cool of the room because he was still in his birthday suit, he went back to the bedroom and pulled on a pair of jeans.

He looked at himself in the wardrobe's full-length mirror and pulled his stomach in, then he let it relax and watched the slight overhang.

As he puffed up his chest, raising his arms above himself and then bringing them down, all tensed and straining, the kettle switch clicked off.

Ruffling his thick black hair with a hand he went back into the living room.

This time he drew the curtains, flooding the flat, that held the stench of cigarette smoke, with the morning light.

He picked up a couple of ashtrays on his way to the kitchen, tipped their contents into the flip-top plastic bin and then turned to the cupboard. Collecting a mug and the jar of coffee he went to the sink unit drawer for a teaspoon.

"Bollocks," he said quietly, when he found their place empty.

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He took one from the dirty dishes in the bowl in the sink. Under the tap-water he rubbed it with his thumb.

He was gasping for a cup of coffee, but having made it he realised it would be too hot to drink. He felt really dull.

It was then he remembered the orange juice in the fridge and he took another mug and poured himself some from the carton.

Echo and the Bunnymen were wailing away, the constant solid bass and the wandering lead guitar and vocals.

Having drunk the orange juice in one go, he suddenly did not feel like the coffee. So leaving the coffee on the sideboard he began to tidy up the living room.

Beryl moved on top of him. Riding him. He watched her, lying on his back, enjoying her joy.

He was in complete control when she came the first time. She fell upon him totally wasted, like a rag doll. He remained hard and slowly he began to move to retain his hardness. Kevin held her by the tops of her thighs as his movement became more obvious. He pushed her up and she began to ride him once again. Pain etched her face. Or was it painful joy? She was quite wet.

He felt himself swell and he lifted his buttocks off the sheets of the bed, so that she could not use her knees for support. Only him.

He feigned his coming by breathing harshly and she, obviously wanting him to come quickly, did the same. But he was a long way off and had trapped her. She had

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been suckered in and now her emotion took over. He would get her to come again.

She rode him wildly. And she knew she had been tricked. Or perhaps it had passed for him? No matter, she moved upon him frantically. Trying to wait for him. Not wanting to come too quickly and become unable to satisfy him. So she fought with herself.

And he knew all this and it excited him. Because he hated her. He loved their sex but that was all. His hate was why he could keep such control.

When she came the second time he came shortly afterwards, bursting painfully.

"Two times," she gasped. "That's never happened before..."

On the third ring she picked up the phone.

"Hallo Helen. It's me, Kevin."

"Oh, hallo."

"Still okay for lunchtime?"

"Yes."

"Good."

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah. Just a little hungover."

"Well, we can call it off if you want?"

"Oh no. No."

Pause.

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"So," he began. "I'll see you in twenty minutes. I don't fancy driving, perhaps we can walk?"

"Yes, that'll be nice."

"Right."

"Okay, see you soon then."

"Right, cheers."

"Bye."

He put the receiver down, went over to the stereo and turned the music up again.

Call it off? Like hell.

You are

You are my field

And I have come to lie here
You are my tranquillity
And I have come to rest here

You are my sanctuary
And I have come to hide fear
You are my hope
And I have come to face fear

You are my companion
And I have come to be near
You are my love
And I have come to love here.

In the kitchen he filled the plastic bowl in the sink and opened the window. An ant raced across the sill.

Echo and the Bunnymen were sparing the Cutter.

He crushed it with his finger.

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The breeze of the day stroked his face as he washed the dishes. But he still felt thick.

Thirteen pints at the pub, two cans of lager back here, was a little too much after a day at the garage. They'd got together straight after work and had a bite whilst drinking. He didn't want to drink a lot this lunchtime, otherwise he'd be really spaced going around the shops. He loathed Saturday shoppers at the best of times.

"Go for it, Kev."

He regarded the pint before him. A little drama never hurt anybody. He'd drink the bastard under the table any day. But down-in-one...?

And he'd lifted the pint, those years ago, and emptied it. But he had not held it down... He had not reached the loo. God, what a mess! What an embarrassment!

He'd taken the guy out a few weeks later. Still...

"Right," he said to himself. "That'll do."

He wiped his hands on the tea-towel and surveyed the lounge.

"Damn." He'd missed an ashtray and he'd just emptied the bowl of water.

Kevin wanted the place decent, just in case she came back. He took it to the kitchen and washed it with his fingers under warm water.

In the bedroom he gathered up the clothes, strewn or draped about and stuffed them into the wash-basket. Another trip to the launderette was well overdue. He always left it late. Once he had to wash all his underwear and the inside of his jeans had rubbed his balls sore.

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It was getting on.

The record came off the turntable and a loose T-shirt was slipped over him. "Move, move, move." He clicked his fingers, checking the flat. Bedroom door closed. Money. Keys. Book.

"Yes, book." He picked up the book from the table and slapped it into his hand three times.

"Okay, let's hit it."

Outside, the hubbub of the day shocked him. His exuberance vanished and he again felt dull. Smile y'bastard. You can't see her like this.

A dog was barking. Some kids were screaming down at the park. Noisy buggers.

"Sandra," he had said, wanting her attention, "will you marry me?"

"I don't know."

And he remembered a scene from earlier days.

They had been naked in the bedroom. The room was charged with emotion. He was very upset.

She said: "If this is love, then I'm very disappointed."

He cried silently and she did the same. Crying they had tenderly made love on the bed.

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All this was over two years ago, he thought to himself. Why surface now? Was he going soft, again? Huh, perhaps...

As he walked down the hill, nearing the main road, passing the flats and small abused park, Lou Reed's Femme Fatale surfaced in perfect reproduction.

He scolded himself because it had not been like that. Sandra had been, and still was, special to him. Yes, he'd got chewed out, but it wasn't really her fault.

Nevertheless, Kevin drew strength from the lyrics and his defences came up as he crossed the busy main road. Yes, he'd be strong. After all, he felt, it was his strength that appealed to Helen. No, not his brutality, his strength, his masculinity.

He slapped the book into his thigh to the rhythm of the music in his head.

What the fuck you staring at wog? his mind asked, as the coloured approached him.

His eyes flared, but the coloured remained dead-eyed.

And he thought of Al at work. He took a lot of stick for being a nigger. But then he dished it out too. He had the respect of all of them at the garage. As long as you gauged his mood you could have a laugh. He'd beaten shit out of that new lad. Served him right too. He'd had it coming. Nobody had liked him. They were all glad when Mick sacked him.

Perhaps the wog had been watching his rhythm. Ah, he could dance. Him and the boys on the dance floor were something else.

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He was always up on music. After all, the radio was on all day at work. No wonder he rarely used it in the flat!

Then he was at her door: the main door on the roadside. There was no garden. He rang her bell, one of the three that were lit up.

Ordinarily he would hear her thud-thudding down the stairs, but that was because he often saw her in the evening when the traffic was not so bad. Also down the way the motorised rat-tat-tat of a pile-driver intermittently drowned all sound.

Kevin's face washed over with dullness. He gripped the book slightly harder as if he felt it might fall. He had already checked his hair in the shop window next door.

The waiting began to irritate him as he looked up and down the busy road.

Maybe he ought to call it off?

Then the door opened and he jumped inside himself, but she did not notice.

"Hi," he said, forcing a smile.

She read him immediately.

"You did have a bad night."

He laughed, but not sincerely. His defences had been shaken.

"Ah well," he began, as he entered the hallway, "you've got to relax after a hard day's graft."

"Yes," she agreed, sweetly.

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Now he was in disarray. Retreat or hold ground?

"How about you?" he asked, deciding to side-step.

"I stayed in."

They plodded up the stairs.

"What? On a Friday night?"

"What's so special about Friday night?"

Shit, he thought. Retreat. Retreat.

"Nofing I s'pose."

Silence.

After three flights of steps they entered her flat.

"Do you want a drink or shall we get on?" she asked. He stood lamely between the entrances of her small kitchen and lounge-dining room.

"We'd better get going. Especially as we're walking."

"Okay." And she moved off into the lounge for her handbag.

He stood, with his arms hanging at his sides, looking into her immaculate flat with its hanging baskets of plants, tastefully obscure pictures in oriental water-colours and modern photographs, the upright piano, the drawing-board and easel, rows of books, Habitat sofa, two large beanbags and finally the huge cheese plant leaning out of the corner of the room.

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All this made him feel threatened.

"Will I need a cardigan."

"Huh?"

She repeated the question.

"Oh, er, no. No."

"Okay, let's go." Helen smiled at him and some skin lifted from his eyes.

They made for the door.

Now was the time to establish himself. He racked his mind for something to say. Then just at the door he remembered the book.

"Oh. I brought you your book back."

"Thanks," she said, taking it from him and placing it on top of the piano. "What did you think?"

Kevin did not really want to talk about it. He had not enjoyed it at all, mainly because he had not understood it. If indeed, there had been anything to understand.

Sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, after the five of them had indulged a jolly post-mortem of the fight and past fights, Steve had found it on the mantle-piece.

"Mysteries, Knut Hamsun," he had said, trying to read the back cover. "Is it a thriller?"

"Naw," Kevin returned. His mates were with him tonight, so he would not put on airs. "It's about this nutter who likes to shock people."

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"Any good?"

"No. Not really. I couldn't get into it."

"That architect friend of yours gave you it, didn't she?" put in Tony.

"Yeah," he replied, looking into his can, the smoke smarting his eyes.

The book of poetry, by some local struggling author, she had leant him was well hidden on his bedside cabinet. He hadn't got through it and wasn't ready to give it back. When he was, he'd make damn sure there was no chance of bumping into anybody he knew.

"I thought it quite good," he answered her. Then he felt guilt-ridden and a redness filled his neck. "But I'm not sure I understood it."

"Yes," she smiled. "He was a rather odd writer. Melancholic and philosophical."

He nodded in agreement, grateful he had got off so lightly because she had not seen his neck.

"'ave you got anywhere yet?" Tony had persisted.

"Fuck off," Kevin returned.

From the light of her flat the stairway was relatively dark.

"Y'd break y'neck on these stairs," he remarked as she closed her flat door, making it even darker.

She pressed the timed light switch.

"There we are. It's called a light switch," she said facetiously.

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At that moment, with the light upon her honey-coloured hair, a winsome smile putting dimples in her cheeks, his heart leapt.

He laughed. And his head ached in protest.

They went down the stairs and out onto the brutal street. The sun brought out the drabness of the brick buildings and grey paving stones. Lorries, juggernauts, cars, all passed along this way.

For a short time they walked in silence. The noise of the traffic made conversation difficult.

Then as they turned down the alley away from the main road she spoke:

"Do you like getting drunk?"

What answer to give? Play it safe.

"Sometimes."

But it was not sufficient. Ah, throw the ball in her court.

"Don't you?" he asked.

She seemed to contemplate this for a moment as they emerged from the alleyway onto the common.

"Yes...sometimes."

He smiled and he knew that she was smiling too. He would not look at her, although she walked alongside him now. In the alley she had led.

For some reason the grassland seemed huge, the trees miles away.

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Others walked across the common. A group of kids were playing football between clumps of jackets and bags. And further in the distance a party were having a barbecue. Kevin was glad their path would keep them in relative isolation.

Sandra and himself had moved across such a wasteland many years ago.

"What are we going to do?" she had asked.

"Look, don't worry... But we have to get, er, rid of it."

"It," she whispered heavily.

"Look," he pleaded, distressed. "I can't think of it any other way. You mustn't either."

He put his arm around her.

"I'll stand by you," he reassured.

What a different story it would be now if they hadn't got rid of it. He would have married her. She had been keen on him then. But it hadn't happened that way...

Helen wore a plain white blouse and jeans.

"It's a lovely day," she said. Had she seen him eyeing her?

"Yes," he returned, looking at the kids way off playing football.

"It's nice taking a walk," he said.

"Yes."

"It's also nice to see you during the day... Usually when we go out it's pitch black."

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"That's true. I - oh - ah -" she frantically waved a hand side to side and leant into him. It was a large bee.

"Don't hit it," he said, grabbing her shoulders and moving her away from the drunken path of the insect.

Then it was gone. He let her go and she straightened herself.

"I hate wasps," she said, looking down her blouse.

"It was a bee."

"Same thing."

Kevin was about to pursue the matter, but then realised it would be tactless.

As they resumed their walk, he became aware that that was the first time he had touched her. He'd only taken her out three times. And on each occasion he had grown more daring in their parting kiss. She had resisted in such a way that he'd felt awkward, but not humiliated. Soon the crunch would come. But what made her tick?

"She's probably a twenty-four carat virgin," Tony had stated.

Steve had reprimanded him. "Leave it out Tone."

"What were we saying?" Helen asked.

"I can't remember."

"Neither can I."

Silence.

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"Oh yes," she began, lit up by the fact that she had remembered. "Walking."

"Yes," he agreed, thinking it was a dead-end subject.

"My parents used to take my sister and myself for walks all the time. Even in winter. There are some nice walks at home."

"Naw, we never went for walks. There was nowhere to go. That's the city for you."

It had stopped raining and he walked alongside his Dad. The two of them were walking into town to buy something for Mum. It would be her birthday soon.

As the street came up to the traffic lights it seemed to narrow. Far too small for the huge vehicles that used it. A lake-like puddle sat in the kerb. When they were adjacent

to it, Kevin's little hand grasping his Dad's, a ten-tonner hurtled passed them towards the lights. Dad had been drenched from the waist downwards and young Kevin had been virtually soaked from head to toe.

Dad had been angry, but on seeing the state of Kevin he had decided to laugh. And they had both laughed at their misfortune.

"My Mum always has to go out on a sunny day," Helen went on. "She feels it's a waste otherwise."

A form of challenge had risen here and Kevin took it up, assuming a negative role.

"Work that's all my parents knew. So we had no time for walks."

"That's sad."

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Bottle

ISBN 978-0-95567-962-9

Preview: Bottle

by D.M. Samson

In Nails Kevin was a prisoner of frustration, middling, but waiting for who knows what. In Bottle he's liberated with the proverbial "kick up the arse" he needs.

This book has got everything. Even the kitchen sink! It's teeming with life and death, tears and laughter, sex and violence, parents and children, brutality and tenderness, anger and contentment... But why should I go on? Look up further antonyms yourself. Or save yourself the trouble and simply read the book.

Although Bottle is the sequel to Nails it can be read in its own right.

Critique

What people have said:

"Unputtdownable. A worthy sequel." (Roger H., Bath)

Sample Chapter

Bottle

The trill of the telephone wrenched him out of sleep. He was surprised to see that it was bright outside. A glance at the clock told him it was passed nine. He lay there for a moment wondering what had woken him.

He didn't have a hangover in a traditional sense. His head didn't ache, but he felt out of phase. And his stomach was a tumble-drier.

Then he heard the phone.

The phone hadn't awakened him in years now. Not since the break-in at Mick's.

"Kev. It's Martin."

"Yeah, what?" he had stammered. "It's dark. What time is it?"

"Three. Get over to Johnson's as soon as you can. The alarm's gone off at Mick's."

"Why are we meeting there?" Johnson's scrap yard was round the corner from the garage.

"Jeez Kev, think about it on the way. Bring something heavy." He had a crowbar under the front passenger car seat.

"What about the police?"

"They're on their way. Now fuck off and get going. Wait there for us. Mick and Kurt are on their way."

Yes, light-years ago.

He swung wearily out of bed. By the time he was standing the phone had jolted his nerves a third time. How long had it been ringing before rousing him? His answer-phone kicked in after twelve rings.

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He pulled the bedroom door aside and strode across the lounge to the small table at his flat door.

"Yeah, yeah," he whispered under his breath as the phone rang for a fourth time.

He snatched up the hand-piece. "Yeah?"

"Hallo, Kevin."

"Hi Mum. What's up?"

"Kevin, I've got some bad news." She waited a moment before continuing. He was wide-awake. "I called last night, but you weren't in." The small red light was not blinking. She never left messages. He didn't understand it, but she didn't like the answer-phone. She said it put her in a tizz and she didn't know what to say.

"What is it Mum?"

"It's Sandra." His stomach clenched against the churning. "Kevin, she's been involved in an accident."

"Is she okay?"

"Oh Kevin." Was she crying? "No, she's not. She's been killed."

"Wha - You're - "

Then to counter his smile his side flared.He was silent and she was too.

"How? What happened?"

"Her sister phoned me last night. You'd better phone her. As I understand it she got run over by a drunk driver. But I'm not sure I got it all. You'd better phone. Have you got her number?"

"Sandra," he had said, wanting her attention, "will you marry me?"

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"Kevin?"

"Yes, Mum? Sorry I …"

He was naked and he suddenly felt cold. Very cold.

"Have you got her number?"

"Whose?"

"Sally's."

"Yes, I, er, think so. But you'd better give it to me just in case."

He scrawled the number on one of the scraps of paper beside the telephone. His hand was shaking and the paper slipped, so he wedged the telephone between his chin and shoulder and held the paper still.

"Are you going to be, okay?"

He held the phone again. "Yeah, yeah, fine Mum."

"Call a friend. You shouldn't be on your own." She knew he wouldn't travel across the country to her a day before work.

"Yes, Mum." Although, he couldn't think of anyone to call.

"You'd better phone Sally, then."

"Yes."

"Kevin, love you."

"Yeah, you too Mum." He hung up.

Although he felt cold, he didn't move. He stared at the phone. His Mum should have left a message. But what message could she have left? Phone me, at most. And would he have phoned her so late and in the state he had been in?

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He looked at the dent in the door. His knuckles had taken the brunt, but it was the back of his hand that had ached for weeks afterwards. The punch was to vent his anger after an argument early in his relationship with Sandra. Kevin looked back into the lounge and then at the number he had scrawled.

"It's Sandra. Kevin, she's been involved in an accident."

He made an effort to see her and was aghast that he could only partially visualise her and then only fleetingly.

Why hadn't his Mum just come out with it? Why the solemn introduction? Of course he knew the answer. It was her way. The only way she knew. She hadn't wanted to be dramatic. Yes, and she had wanted him to brace himself. But some part of her didn't want to come out with it. She couldn't

accept it. Just as some part of her recoiled from using the answer-phone.

He was being stupid, of course. How would he have come out with it?

Shit. She was dead. Sandra was dead. He'd never see her again. Never hear her laughter. Her voice. Feel her skin. See the freckles on her arm. The mole in the small of her back.

And more than two years ago they had been naked in the bedroom. The room was charged with emotion. He was very upset.

She said: "If this is love, then I'm very disappointed."

He cried silently and she did the same. Crying they had tenderly made love on the bed.

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Kevin grew angry at the memory. He didn't want it. He wanted to remember her well. He wanted the good times.

He took a deep breath and his side flared. "You and whose fuckin' army?"

"Fuck off," he hissed into the empty flat.

He strode across the lounge, seeing his scratchings on the writing pad on the dining table. He'd title it "What the fuck!" This was his attempt at making sense of nonsense.

"Shit," he said as he went to the chest of drawers in the bedroom. He pulled out a pair of boxer shorts and climbed into them. Then he went over and tore back the curtains. The light flooded the room but didn't dispel the emptiness, the huge silence.

"Oh Kevin. No, she's not. She's been killed."

"Wha - You're - " And he'd almost said in reflex: "you're joking." Luckily it hadn't come out.

He went to the toilet, lifted the seat and stood for a moment. Then he changed his mind and sat. He watched a silverfish run the rim of the bath at the tiles, before disappearing down an ancient crack. There was a time when most of the edge of the bath, no, the entire bathroom, was chocker with cosmetic bottles and tubes of all shapes and sizes. It had smelt like Boots the chemist. He had worried that the perfume would stick and the boys at work would think he was a poof. He'd joked in front of Sandra that he had trouble finding his toothbrush. Once, when she was out he'd accidentally knocked a bottle over whilst drying himself and it had been like those standing dominoes, one knocking the next. And when he came to right them, he was too clumsy or his hands were too big and one was forever toppling the other, frustration eventually stealing his smile.

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Kevin wiped his bum, pulled up his underwear, covered and flushed the toilet, washed his hands with soap and dried them on a towel.

Then he was standing over the phone again. This time he was in striped boxer shorts. The bruise at his side was still purple, but it was no longer so intense. Brawling over a woman in the pub. Clever, real clever. The silence made him uncomfortable, but then he didn't want to be comfortable.

Kevin saw the depression in the floorboard near the door. To see herself in the full-length mirror whilst on the telephone, Sandra had stretched the cord across width of the flat door and the phone crash down. Since then something rattled in the phone, but it worked perfectly.

He picked up the hand-piece and dialled the number.

The last time he'd seen Sally was when she had stayed with Sandra. He remembered the three of them in his Triumph Spitfire. It was about eleven at night. Sandra was beside him; Sally crammed in the back. A car was tailing them through empty suburbia. He'd speeded up, took extra turns and he'd tapped the break pedal. Still the car stuck to him. His mind raced. Sally couldn't see out of the oval back window. Only by chance on a turn was the distance enough for him to see in his wing mirror the coloured glass adorning the top of the car. "Shit. It's the police," he said quietly and pulled over.

The phone was picked up in the middle of the second ring, almost as if the person had been waiting for the call.

"Hallo?"

"Sally. It's Kevin."

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Deutschisch

ISBN 978-0-95567-963-6

Preview: Deutschisch

by D.M. Samson

"If you're living a lie, then you'll lie to live."

What starts out as a routine task of collecting the body of a German national murdered at a Turkish resort becomes an emotional odyssey for Oberkommissar Dannaks (of REX: Racism and Extremism).

Intent on contributing to the investigation he is confronted by a wall of silence from the hotel staff. The Turkish police aren't giving anything away. And if that wasn't enough even his companion Reupke (from Homicide) is happy to treat the trip as a holiday. Finally, the resort begins to seduce Dannaks, culminating with the distraction of a fledgling romance.

Then when a girl, missing since the murder, gives herself up and confesses to the killing, Dannaks appears to be the only one to believe she is lying.

Back in Hamburg he unexpectedly finds himself suspended from duty. Using the time to investigate the girl's past he uncovers not only her terrible secret, but also a mistake by Reupke's Homicide colleagues. His emotional odyssey turns into a quest for truth and justice that takes him to Berlin and Central Anatolia.

Critique

What people have said:

"Oberkommissar Dannaks is a marvellous character." (Roger H., Bath)

Sample Chapter

Deutschisch

June

Sunday

18:23

By the time Hauptkommissar Hofmann reached the second floor he was out of breath.

Rising after dipping under the tape outside had given him a moment of dizziness. He didn't show his infirmity to the media behind him and soldiered on. On such occasions he was grateful for his no-nonsense mask. His face was an ancient motorway pile-up, more crumpled than wrinkled, his skin rusting, almost flaking, brittle metal. It suited his fixed bulldog demeanour. More than the media he relished his ironclad authority over the uniforms. The

lad with the clipboard on door duty almost cowered as he signed in. And the offer of paper overshoes and latex gloves could best be described as meek.

Hofmann would have liked to use the metal banister to pull himself up the concrete steps, but at least one technician was strategically dusting it for prints. A numbered plastic card on one of the steps marked a drop of blood.

On the second floor he had no option but to take a pause. Bent over, his hands upon his thighs, he coughed and rattled. In this position he noticed the small puddle of water and remainder of drops on the spacious landing. The flat door was open and he felt the others watching him, hearing their unspoken thoughts about soiling the crime scene.

His spirits lifted somewhat as he remembered an old joke about a student

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doctor who smoked. His dormitory friends continually said: "One of these days you're going to cough your guts up." He ignored their jibes and as a gag some of them got together and laid out all manner of internal organs on his chest whilst he slept.

In the morning he was pale when he came down to breakfast and they asked him what was wrong. "Guys, you were right," he gasped. "Last night I coughed my guts up."

"That's awful," said one.

"Yeah, but not half as bad as putting them back in again."

Hofmann regained himself. His breathing was down to a laboured wheeze.

Thiel, his partner, was at his side. "Alles klar (everything okay), boss?"

"Yeah, I don't normally put my guts in on a Sunday." He ignored Thiel's querulous look. "What have we got?"

"A double," said Thiel, leading the way to the flat. "A Turk and what looks like a national. It's hard to tell. His face is pulped."

Before entering the flat Hofmann stopped. Thiel had stepped over the small puddle. "What's with the water?"

"Don't know," said Thiel. "The first officer said it was already there when he arrived."

"Was it dirty?" Parts of it were blackened.

"I asked the same question," said Thiel, proudly.

"And?" said Hofmann, letting his lack of breath underpin his impatience. He knew

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Thiel was in awe of him. This was how a detective should be: thick skinned, larger than life and exceedingly bitter. Poor Thiel, to give his voice the right timbre he would have to increase his tobacco consumption five-fold and maintain it for at least a decade.

Many years ago Hofmann had tried to give up. The days counted as some of the worst of his life. He had felt sick and depressed.

"He thought not. You can talk to him."

"I will," he said gruffly. The water could have been dirtied by any number of people: the uniform first on the scene, a witness, emergency personnel, the killer or one of the victims.

"Identities?" he asked stepping into the flat.

"Unconfirmed," said Thiel. "But I think they were the occupants." He fell silent and Hofmann purposefully avoided inspecting at the bodies. Lorenz, the Rechtsmediziner (forensic medical expert), was crouched over the male victim and Hofmann could see neither of their faces. The girl looked asleep. Instead the Hauptkommissar surveyed the lounge and dining room. This was his way. Doors further in led to a kitchen, which appeared undisturbed, the bathroom that was in the throes of being tiled and the bedroom. Here the cupboards and drawers were all open as if someone had been searching for something. Was robbery the motive?

Thiel followed him about the flat like an obedient dog.

Hofmann returned to the lounge and turned his attention to the bodies. Lorenz was now standing looking down at the victims. The girl was in casual attire and

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the lad in an overall. Contrasting the peacefulness of the female victim, the boy had taken a severe battering.

"He took a pasting," said Thiel, unnecessarily.

"First impressions?" He knew better than to ask Lorenz for the cause of death.

Without looking up Lorenz said: "I thought we were about to have a third body at the door of the flat." For a moment Hofmann didn't know what he was talking about. Then he realised he was referring to his coughing fit. Hofmann gave a huff. "Rigor hasn't begun, so we're talking of a tee-oh-dee of two maximum three hours ago." This time of death margin concurred with the initial call to the police. "The girl's neck is broken. She died instantly. You can see the bruising to her jaw. It's ante mortem and probably knocked her out. The lad is

another story altogether." His head glistened with blood, his mouth and lips were split, the jaw looked smashed. "He took a pummelling. The back of his head is cracked open too. That could be a result of trying to lift himself off the floor and being bashed down again. Or the person straddled him and lifted and banged his head a number of times and then laid into him. I can't see the marks of any weapon. But you can see from his neck that the cause of death may be strangulation. I'll know-"

"- more when you get him back to your lair," Hofmann said. Yes, he thought. The beating meant passion. Hatred. And he hoped that made it a zwölf (twelve).

Unlike other police forces that used code numbers to relate incidents the Hamburg police force communicated clearly. However, ever since a woman had killed her husband, stabbing him with a carving knife, because he hadn't cleaned the

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bath after taking a shower, the number zwölf had become synonymous with a domestic. During her confession she admitted that the trigger for her rage that led to the killing had been counting twelve of her husband's hairs in the bath.

The likelihood of this double being a zwölf raised Hofmann's hopes of clearing it. It would be nice to retire on a closed case. "What I-"

"Sir," said a technician behind them. Whether he was addressing Brauer, the chief technician who stood nearby or Hofmann was unclear. "You might want to see this."

He was pointing a torch under the sofa. Like all the technicians he too was clad in a hooded white overall.

"Anna," called Brauer, to the technician with the camcorder. "Have you done there?"

He nodded at the sofa.

"Yes," she said.

"Then we may need some stills of what's underneath."

"Simon?" He was talking to the technician with the torch.

"There's nothing to dust. But I haven't done trace."

"Let's leave it in position and tip it on its back," Hofmann suggested.

Thiel went to one end, Simon to the other and tipped the sofa to reveal the floor underneath.

"Let's leave it in position and tip it on its back," Hofmann suggested.

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They all found themselves staring at a single dining fork. The prongs were stained red.

Book One

July

Tuesday 20:45

(25 months later)

Pride and fear sat uneasily on the hotel manager's face. Like an ill fitting photo-fit the top of his expression didn't match the bottom. Dannaks could see it in his smile and his eyes. The smile was fixed and nervous and prolonged well beyond sincerity. It was the sickly grimace of a schoolboy caught red-handed: a liar's smile. And the mania glistening in his eyes said that even he knew he was deceiving no one.

Anyone would think heads of state were visiting. Then, in a way, this was something of a state visit. Hadn't they just arrived in a mini motorcade?

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...and the man who loved cats

ISBN 978-0-95567-964-3

Preview: ...and the man who loved cats

by D.M. Samson

"… and the man who loved cats" is a collection of nine haunting stories:

A woman is stalked by a caller;

a young couple move into a house besieged by cats;

a commuter is uplifted;

a family man with dubious motivation aids an attractive neighbour;

Preview: Solitary Preview: Skin Preview: CSR

a backpacker vets prisoners' letters (also available as Kindle short story: Solitary);

a jilted man becomes suicidal;

a woman kills her husband and uses acid to dispose his body;

a man worries about his wife's fidelity;

a blinded neo-Nazi discovers a new life (also available as Kindle short story: Skin).

The bonus story CSR is available as Kindle short story.

Critique

What people have said:

"Meouw." (Brian M., London)

"Some of these stories made my skin crawl." (Gabriel B., Hamburg)

Sample Chapter

Contents

The man who loved cats                 7

Skin                                           103

Connections                               119

Der Anrufer                                 135

Nitrogen Narcosis                       154

The Samaritan                             184

Yellow                                       213

Solitary                                       229

Vitriol                                         234

The man who loved cats

As he swam towards the drowning girl, something peculiar began to happen. Instead of progressing he appeared to be going backwards: he did not seem to be getting any closer. But then, he had heard that under such circumstances time played tricks. Every stroke made itself felt, yet in reality he knew he was covering the distance in record time. When life and death were in question time stretched as if it were elastic. But this feeling of not progressing was accentuated by a deep belief that something was pulling him backward. It was not physical. And it seemed to have nothing to do with time. He could not feel the progress of time, but he knew that it was moving forward. He could count off the units with the crash of his arms in the icy water. It was his thoughts that seemed to be reversing. As he moved onward his thoughts went backwards. Huh, he had always believed that during such times of stress the mind froze and one had

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no thoughts at all. This was obviously not the case. His mind was alive and his arms and legs were thrashing.

He could hear old Sultan barking at the lake-side. His parents had often asked why he had called him Sultan and he had no answer. Funny that this thought should come now.

It was lucky that he had chosen this walk. This was the long one. And why not? It was a Sunday. He had nothing else to do. He never had anything else to do. Life was not what you made it; life was what it made of you.

At twenty years old this was how far he had come. This was the sum total of his wisdom.

He had been thinking of ending it all. Life was a gruelling and depressing thing. It was

full of lonely people, never connecting, never coming together. That had been what he had been thinking. But, no, he had been mulling over a related something. Something that had been haunting him for a week.

The water exploded rhythmically in his ears. A related something?

There he was, walking along the lake-side. Thinking. Thinking what?

Then he had it. He had been thinking of it during his walk. It had caused him to mull over ending it all, and he had imagined his parents' reaction, the reactions of the people at work, his friends and then some relatives. His father had read it aloud. A rare honour for the morning. It had been last week. It was one of those "what happened locally one hundred years ago" articles. On this day, a servant girl had drowned herself nearby because, they guessed, she had been desperately lonely. It was known that she

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suffered bouts of depression and this coupled with the fact that she had been found naked with no evidence of foul play - her clothes, in a neatly folded pile, had been discovered first - hinted strongly at suicide. And as his father read he had thought, if only I had lived then. Loneliness was not something particular to this day and age. If only I had known her. Or rather, if only she had known me. I would have shown her. I would have loved her. I am so full of love. I have so much to give. And she could not have helped but love him too. Of course he got depressed. Everyone got depressed, didn't they? But they would have helped each other. Given the chance he would have saved her. And now, miraculously some greater power had given him his chance. History was repeating itself, but this time he was there to change the outcome.

"I'm off," he had announced, knocking back the last of his tea. His father looked up

from his paper and nodded. He never spoke much at breakfast. Only his mother tended to waffle on.

"Well, wrap up then. It's quite chilly out."

"Yes, Mum." She wanted to fuss about him, but she was held back by the fact that he was now a young man. Much to his father's disgust - don't pamper the boy, you'll turn him into a sissy - he let her comb his hair. He allowed her this one ritual because she felt quite lost now that he had grown up.

Crash, crash. He dug and pulled at the icy water. Ahead was glitter. He had wondered during his walk, why was it that when people attempted suicide they did so naked? Was it a rejection of the trappings of society? Was it some kind of expression of freedom along the lines of we come naked into the world and naked shall we go? Or was it something completely opposite? Namely,

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that they felt abused and worn down, that society - or whatever - had taken everything from them and they had nothing. That is, they felt exposed and wanted to express this vulnerability in nakedness. He did not know.

"Look, I'll get a girlfriend when I'm ready."

"Lighten up, son."

"Don't tell me to lighten up. Just mind your own business."

Of course he wanted a girlfriend. How stupid of his father to tell him to get out and about. He liked reading; he liked staying in. There was nothing wrong with that.

Fountains and foam flanked him. So many people never connect.

School hadn't been easy.

"Watch out. Here comes the toff."

"Hey, have you been frying chips in your hair, again?"

"Yeah, watch those spots. You'll get a lunar module landing on your face one day."

"Ah, leave him alone."

But he had been surrounded by so many that friendships were unavoidable. The working world was an every-man-for-himself place.

The water was so cold it was tasteless. It froze the taste-buds. And the drowning girl seemed as far away as ever; dangerously close to those treacherous reeds.

"Why couldn't I have had a brother or sister?"

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"Because we wanted to have you all to ourselves. We wanted to spoil you."

Splash, splash. Was he getting any closer to the drowning girl?

"Oh Mummy, it hurts."

"Come here, let Mummy kiss it better."

It was strange: he looked up again to check his bearings one minute and the next he was upon her. It was as if she had transported herself to him.

He hurriedly grabbed at her, but was arrested by a number of things. He was aware of none of them in particular: he was half-aware of them all. The summation of them was his arrest, an arrest that quickly twisted into confusion.

In that moment he saw her smile. It was a

beautiful smile. It was a smile that said welcome. There was confidence in her grey eyes. She had put rather too much kohl around them. But her beauty carried off this clumsiness. It added an exotic interest to her. Of course she was pale - curiously white. Indeed, there was a bluish hue to her skin. It was her calmness that shocked him. There was no stress. But his shock was short-lived for her welcoming smile stole him. He did not question her. He forgot the image of her near the reeds, her arms flailing. Instead he returned her smile with a weak one of his own.

The proximity of their bodies allowed nothing less than an embrace. Therefore he was aware of her coldness.

He wanted to turn her: to get her back on his chest. So that he could swim her to safety.

He was puzzled by her smile, her

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presence. She appeared calm and welcoming. Arrested, his heart filled as her lips neared his. At the same time he was vaguely aware of an icy thinness: a feeling akin to standing before a crevasse. It was a gaping thing not unlike that when standing before a dark cave. It was not raging or tormented like the feeling at the edge of a cliff by the sea. Here the magnitude was the same, but the feeling otherwise. There was no passion, perhaps no emotion, and certainly no warning. Here was also a precipice: a malevolent opening threatening to usurp.

He felt her arm upon his shoulder. Its wetness made it feel slimy. And although he had the feeling that she was not weak, the arm seemed to slop upon his shoulder.

Her delicious smile never vanished. It was fixed and glistening and hard like porcelain. It calmed and perplexed him. A part of him wanted to give itself up to her.

With the slopping of her arm upon his shoulder he perceived a glistening flash of oily dark green, almost black.

The thinness of the atmosphere before the chasm began to seize his thoughts. Although it was incomprehensibly still, he sensed the threat in it.

Moments before the kiss he noticed her hair. It was dark and matted, glued to her head in a slippery gloss that appeared viscous and fixed: lacquered. But the edges of her were wrong. He could think of it no other way. It was similar to a film where something is poorly super-imposed upon the background so that the edges are fleecy. More than this it was like a shimmering tear in the fabric of reality. Like a pullover becoming unstitched it was as if the substance of the world had come apart. The reek of decay came through this rip. And it was she who was piercing the structure. She who was from the other side.

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Ausländer

ISBN 978-0-95567-965-0

Preview: Auslaender

by D.M. Samson

"Conviction nurtures intolerance."

A skinhead attack on a Turkish schoolboy links four protagonists :

Dannaks, promoted to Oberkommissar leaves Drugs to join Soko REX, a small unit that deals with racism and extremism. His first case is that of the schoolboy. But Dannaks has joined because the unit is often seconded to assist Homicide, most recently because a serial killer is on the loose in Hamburg hanging right-wingers. However, helping Homicide takes a backseat as Dannaks comes terms with his new duties and gets embroiled in a private police-corruption investigation that endangers his life.

Craig, a British reporter, writing about racism in Germany, uses the schoolboy attack to exacerbate tensions between Left and Right, culminating in an open clash between the two in the centre of the city.

Cenk, a Turkish youth, joins a gang with the noble idea of protecting the community against such attacks. But the gang takes on a life of its own and is promptly regarded as a terrorist cell.

Karsten, a sado-masochist and celebrated neo-Nazi, finds himself at a crossroads. As leader of the 211ers he is like a weary gunslinger forced to continually satisfy his minions' banal need for action. He sees the growing infamy of the Turkish gang as a challenge to his own standing.

Critique

What people have said:

"The different viewpoints make this 400 page book an epic." (Roger H., Bath)

Sample Chapter

Aüsländer

Wednesday (October)

06:40

The shorter woman, Silke, thought she saw him first. But when she gasped and her pace faltered her companion didn't question her.

After a few steps both joggers stopped.

Of course they had immediately seen the ravens after rounding the deserted restaurant building and entering the expansive play area. The birds were as at home in Hamburg's city park as those of the Tower of London. Only they didn't need their wings clipped to keep them there. Then again, neither of the women had seen so many congregated in one place. Too many to count. Fifty? A hundred? Intimidating in number.

Silke pulled down the scarf that covered her mouth, but kept her hand there. "My God."

"He can't be alive," said Kathrin.

Their words were visualised as ashen plumes that almost instantly vanished in the vastness about them.

"We-" the cold and the shock stole her voice "-we, er, should go closer."

"Around the edge."

The girls skirted the sandy recess that encompassed the dry concrete basin. The basin was a large shallow pool in the summer. Now it was littered with leaves that hugged its edges. The drop to the sandy margin, some twenty metres wide, was about a metre and a half and hinted at a larger pool in the past. Embedded in this

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margin were children's swings, slides, climbing frames and other apparatus.

The bleakness dispelled all traces of summer and any memory of children's voices. Indeed they appeared to be the only ones in the entire park, except for the man they had seen from afar at the start of their run. He had been walking his dog.

In the high summer the park teemed with 100,000 people picnicking, barbecuing, playing football, Frisbee or simply strolling or lounging. Parking too was nigh on impossible. Today, at this time and time of year, they had chosen a prime spot from which to start their jog on Hindenburgstrasse, the road that split the park.

The sky was clear, the sun ornamental. The path, normally clay, was hard like marble. At a walk the crisp air was bearably

cold, but when they were jogging or the wind gusted it stung and cut tears from their eyes. The cold was that of a deep November day. Only winter's darkness was missing. Brown and golden leaves lining the verge of the path were sodden or crisp and twitched and tumbled with the occasional gust.

They continued to walk the boundary, getting closer in a roundabout way.

A bird gave a sharp metallic tock. There were guttural croaks too. The ones on the ground in iridescent purple and blue-black moved like proud-chested undertakers in tails. They seemed ruffled by the presence of the women. One flew a short hop.

The body gently swayed in the wind. Gently, because of its bulk. For a moment the unseeing wide eyes followed the girls' progress. It looked like a sack or bloated

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punch bag hanging under the slide. Green-brown camouflage fatigues clad the limp figure. A long black boot, a paratrooper's boot with white laces, touched the sock upon the other foot. The other boot lay on the ground a few metres away. Too far to have slipped off. Perhaps kicked off during his death throes?

They were coming to a point where the body no longer faced them. Kathrin stopped to scrutinise his face. His bullet head was a shocking white. He was a big man. Fat. Round. A lug. Something orange filled his mouth, splitting it into a grimace: a silent scream. White face, heavy-lidded eyes, orange mouth: stark clown-like colours.

"What's in his mouth?" asked Kathrin. She didn't wait for an answer. "A gum-shield?"

There was a piece of crumpled cloth on the ground. Other than this there was very

little litter. No discarded cans or cups. But scrutiny showed cigarette butts to have merged with the sand. Silke couldn't identify the woolly dark blue or black clump.

A bird was edging its way sideways up the slide towards the man's head.

"Hey," Kathrin suddenly yelled waving her hands. Silke jumped.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to frighten it away. It's going to peck his eyes." She turned and searched the ground. "I'll get a stick."

The wind twisted the body a mite.

"Wait," said Silke. His arms were not hanging at his side but were pinned back. A strand of white waved in a sudden breeze. Distant leaves scuttled for attention. She

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looked to the boot on the sand. It was open; the leather tongue askew. She looked back at the man. "He didn't kill himself."

"Wh-"

"Look. His hands," said Silke unnecessarily, for Kathrin could see that his arms were pulled behind his back and his podgy thumbs were bound together with the missing shoelace.

A short piece of wood or plastic hung near his neck. A similar piece was attached to the end of the rope that was tied to top of the handrail of the slide. A single bird stood above the body, its head in profile, a black bead of an eye watching the women and Silke, an English literature student, heard the word Nevermore in her head. And the word took on a new meaning as she stared at the dead boy. For despite his repulsive nature he was dead and would never do anything any more. She shuddered.

As in most large city parks, the distant trees about them were a mixture of the seasonal and firs and other evergreens. So that when the breeze rose again with surprising force, as if some rosy-cheeked, golden-locked God of Wind blew periodically, the forest was united in a rushing wall of sound. It was as if far greater forces were at work. As if Nature was suddenly unnatural: dwarfing and alienating the two joggers.

The girls didn't look at each other or the dead boy. They fearfully scanned the woods and bushes, the smaller children's play area in the distance, the shuttered buildings, the play of light, the shadows and corners.

Kathrin dug under her tracksuit top into a small pocket of her tight jogging trousers. Eventually she retrieved her handy and Silke watched her fumble tapping in the numbers 110.

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"Stop crying," Silke said impatiently. She wanted to suggest that she make the call. Instead she closed her eyes and the terrible image of the hung youth branded in her mind was fixed with Poe's concluding words:

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted - nevermore!

When she snapped her eyes open, she too couldn't focus. "Now look, you've started me off."

Friday (May the following year)

10:23

Dannaks saw Uwe snatch up the handset in the middle of the second ring. His colleague's expression was enough to stop him emptying his desk drawer.

He surveyed the open plan office. More than half the desks were unoccupied. One of the men got up, opened his desk drawer and clipped his holster containing his Heckler and Koch P 2000 to his waist-belt before slinging on his jacket and leaving the room. That left only three others. One was on the phone; the other two were staring into computer monitors. Nobody appeared to have noticed them.

Even as he scrawled something on a piece of scrap paper Uwe's expression did not ease. He suddenly jerked the receiver from

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his ear and stared at it as if he could see the person at the other end of the line. Dannaks's questioning look met blankness. His colleague tentatively returned handset to his ear.

Dannaks could see that he was still puzzling as he replaced the handset.

After a moment he acknowledged him, but his expression remained emotionless. Dannaks left his desk but before he reached him, Uwe's phone rang again.

"University Clinic Eppendorf. Radiography... Hallo... Hallo..." Uwe replaced the handset and looked up. "Redial," he said.

Dannaks remained standing and Uwe waited too. But the phone did not ring again. Uwe pocketed the piece of paper. Dannaks nodded and then left the room.

Uwe didn't need to be told where he had gone. He followed a minute later.

"We're alone," said Dannaks, standing at the urinals.

Uwe closed the toilet door and started to wash his hands. "That was Freddy," he said. "The location's changed. It's an abandoned farmhouse in Duvenstedt."

Dannaks zipped up and came to the bowl next to Uwe. He knew there was more.

"Does the name Nobby Kabel mean anything to you?" said Uwe, shaking his hands over the bowl.

Dannaks shook his head, Uwe catching the gesture in the mirror before going to the blow-drier. The sound of the machine curtailed further conversation.

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Publisher: David M. Samson
20 Arundel Road
Bath
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Website maintenance: David M. Samson (2012)